During his 17-year managerial career with the Orioles, Earl Weaver crafted 1,480 winning batting orders. Arguably none was as impressive as the lineup that honored him Saturday.
A star-studded collection of players, team representatives, and baseball dignitaries joined Weaver's family and friends during a stirring 90-minute memorial service. A week after Weaver, 82, passed away on a baseball-themed cruise, he received a tribute that encapsulated him not just as a feisty Hall of Fame manager, but a loyal friend and family patriarch.
Dick Gordon, Weaver's marketing manager, led the service. The family requested he obtain a copy of Terry Cashman's song, "The Earl of Baltimore," to be played during the ceremony.
"Being with Earl so many years, he wouldn't be satisfied," Gordon said. "I could do better than that."
He then introduced Cashman, the famed baseball songwriter, to sing his tribute to Weaver.
Brooks was the heart. Frank was the soul. McNally, Mike and Palmer were his Orioles, winning with Weaver, winning for Baltimore. The men in blue, oh he drove them wild. The fight and the fire, that leprechaun smile. We'll always remember the Earl of Baltimore.
Jane Forbes Clark, chairman of the Baseball Hall of Fame's board of directors, read the inscription on Weaver's plaque. Gordon noted how Weaver cherished returning every year to Cooperstown and sharing the stage with his heroes.
"Those words [on his plaque] only describe part of the man. When Earl was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1996, he was so happy to be just the 13th manager ever elected to Cooperstown," Forbes Clark said. "From his Hall of Fame induction weekend forward, Earl always had a tremendous, sometimes mischievous, smile on his face, so proud to be a member of the Hall of Fame."
Weaver, in his induction speech and at just about every other opportunity, credited his players for getting him there. On Saturday, a few of Weaver's fellow Hall of Famers thanked him for his role in their legendary careers.
Former Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer was among six who shared thoughts and anecdotes.
"Earl gave me the opportunity to get to the Hall of Fame," Palmer said, his voice cracking. "What more can you ask of anybody?"
Palmer described his relationship with Weaver, which was at times contentious, as "love-hate." He said after listening to battery mate Rick Dempsey's recollections of Weaver: "I feel like we had a love affair."
Dempsey got plenty of laughs from the crowd as he described one incident with Weaver in Milwaukee that escalated in the dugout. Dempsey tossed every piece of his catcher's equipment at his manager. It then continued in the shower, where Dempsey turned the head to spray his manager.
"If I had to tell all my stories, we would be here until tomorrow," Dempsey said. "Yeah, he probably did yell at me more than anybody because I probably made more mistakes than a lot of them did. … He was notorious. Oh my God, what a relationship I had with him, always yelling and screaming, but you know what? Like a lot of these players have said, he never gave up on me. He made every single one of us a better player."
Added Eddie Murray, of making the club out of spring training as a 21-year-old in 1977: "He never talked to me until the middle of July, the first time he actually said, 'Hi.' Honestly, that man, I do owe him a lot. I know the fight he went through to get me on that ball club. It was never forgotten by me."
Fellow Hall of Famers Frank Robinson and Brooks Robinson also spoke, as did Ken Singleton. Other players in attendance included: Don Buford, Dennis Martinez, Scott McGregor, Bill Swaggerty, Boog Powell and Tom Shopay.
The current Orioles were represented by executive vice president Dan Duquette, ownership representative Louis Angelos, Doug Duennes, the club's executive vice president of business, communications director Greg Bader, team radio announcer Fred Manfra, and batting practice pitcher Rudy Arias.
Other notables included: Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning (who was inducted into the Hall of Fame with Weaver in 1996) and Rochester Red Wings owner Naomi Silver.
"I don't know if he loved us, but we loved him," Brooks Robinson said. "If we won a game, he loved us, believe me. I always admired Earl simply because here was a guy who never wanted to do anything in his life except put on a uniform and play baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals when he was growing up."
Added Dempsey: "One thing about Earl, we hated him a lot of the time, but at the end of the day you loved him because he was a winner."
The Orioles plan to hold their own memorial service for Weaver in Baltimore at a date that has yet to be set. Weaver died at age 82 on Jan. 18.
Baltimore Sun reporter Dan Connolly contributed to this article.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun